Doin’ it Denver style

IMG_0118I had to run some errands in Denver, so I decided to make a day of it. I started at City O’ City, where I partook of WAY too much vegetarian gravy. It is just too delicious. If I had gone for lunch, I would have had the seitan wings. I feel sorry for you gluten-free people who can’t appreciate these little delicious morsels. I say, give me ALL THE GLUTEN.

IMG_0117Then it was off to the Denver Art Museum. They were in between traveling exhibitions, so I just explored the permanent collection. I have seen it before, but there was something magical about being there on a weekday. It was practically deserted.

You don’t really go to the DAM for modern art—they have some impressive stuff, including this awesome new installation of some sexy American foxes. (There’s a bunch more than this.)

And they have a Yoshitomo Nara. I love Nara. His subjects are usually sweet-faced children doing bad things—like swearing, playing with matches and weapons and such. My BFF has a Nara alarm clock. Every hour, on the hour, it says, “FUCK!”

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Quiet, Quiet by Yoshitomo Nara

But the real attractions at the DAM are its collections of artifacts, clothing, and visual arts from North American indigenous people, South America, Asia, and the American West. It feels like a world history museum.

The way that they have all of the Native American clothing displayed makes this room feel inhabited by ghosts. It is a sad place, but also very beautiful. (Click on the images for a slideshow.)

I was all alone in the South American collection, except for the lone museum employee whose job it is to wander the halls. I didn’t catch his name, but we chatted about Austin and stuff. I could hear him whistling as he walked through the galleries.

And the Asian collection…

I almost cried at how amazing all of this stuff is. I must be hormonal or going through a midlife crisis or some shit.

Travel wishlist: Norway

Lauklines-fishermans shacks-Yngve Ask-VisitNorway

Lauklines Fisherman’s Shacks // Yngve Ask // VisitNorway.com

Last week I caught an interview with Laurie Anderson (performance artist and Mrs. Lou Reed) in which she detailed a recent concert for dogs that she put on at the Sydney Opera House and raved about a memoir called My Struggle by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard.

IMG_0134Released in Norway in 2009, My Struggle is actually the first volume of a six volume autobiography, chronicling the author’s childhood and his father’s descent into alcoholism. Knausgaard’s writing style is extraordinary. He catalogues even the most seemingly insignificant details with such astounding clarity that you feel as if the veil between writer and reader has all but dropped away. The world he describes is all at once bleak, crisp, cold, majestic, crushing, and invigorating. James Woods of The New Yorker describes it perfectly when he says, “even when I was bored, I was interested.”

I had never thought much about Norway. It certainly wasn’t at the top of my list of travel destinations, but the more I reflect on it, I realize that I have had a thing for Norwegians for a while. For example, last summer I read an amazing short story by Wells Tower called “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,” about a band of restless Vikings. Several years ago, I developed a crush on Andreas Viestad, the chef/host of the show “New Scandinavian Cooking” on PBS. And I don’t even like fish.

andreas viestad

When my sister turned me on to the Adult Swim show Metalocalypse, Toki Wartooth, the Norwegian rhythm guitarist, was definitely our favorite character.

Aside from all of that, it only takes a simple Google image search to see that Norway is an incredibly worthwhile destination (these are all from VisitNorway.com):

So, yeah. I guess I want to visit Norway. Who knew? The only real obstacle I can foresee is the language, which pretty much sounds like this in my mind:

Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!”

Erie, CO, USA

IMG_0084Since arriving in Colorado a couple days ago, I have been staying with my mom in Erie. She left first thing this morning for work, leaving me without transportation. I had planned to go into Boulder, but it turns out that the bus doesn’t run between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. (how convenient!)  I contemplated walking the several miles to the next bus stop, but an hour-and-a-half trek through dried up prairie lands along the side of a bustling parkway did not appeal to me. So, allow me to introduce you to Erie, CO (est. 1874). At first glance, I thought it said “1974,” which would have seemed more plausible based on the strip malls and identical khaki houses on all sides.

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Wrong side of the tracks

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The tumbling tumbleweeds…

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The closest thing to a grocery store in all of Erie

Well, that’s it for the suburbs.

I headed into the historical town center, anxious to take in the sights of this bustling metropolis.

IMG_0131The Erie Episcopal Methodist Church was built in 1888 by the Rev. J. Van Valkenburg who is one of the town’s primary founders. He was from Erie, Pennsylvania. When it came time to name this new settlement in the wilds of the West, The Rev must have said, “How about Erie?” Real original,  Van Valkenburg. In addition to being a reverend, he went on to be president of the Boulder Valley Coal Co., a founder of the local Masons chapter, a hotelier, the editor of the newspaper, a state representative, the mayor, and the town’s first undertaker.

 

There had been a spattering of European settlers throughout the 1850s and 60s, but Erie really boomed in the 1870s, when it became a mining town.

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I wanted to go to the Briggs St. Cafe for lunch. It is run by an Iranian family, and my mom says the food is quite good. I will have to take her word for it. It is closed on Tuesdays. (What the…?)

IMG_0119So I went to Azteca Family Mexican Restaurant instead. I liked their wall prints. When I started taking pictures of them, my server made sure to point out the one of Pancho Villa.

I’m pretty sure everyone in Erie thinks I am a complete nutbag. But that’s okay, because I don’t get them either. What are they thinking about? What are their interior lives like? Then I saw this…

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That about sums it up for Erie. I WILL MAKE IT TO BOULDER TOMORROW.

Farewell, Austin

IMG_0070My dad told me once that he liked the idea of “The Fool” card in the tarot. He said that people look down upon the fool, because no one wants to feel foolish, embarrassed, ashamed. But the truth is that the fool is the one with an open heart, ready for anything. Unafraid of anything. It doesn’t always work out in the fool’s favor, but at least he (or she, in my case) is willing to try.

I was on the #1 bus, on my way to work one day and I had a book from the library. I found this quote so beautiful that I took a picture of it. It sums up how I feel about living in Austin—I changed so much, but somehow I didn’t change at all. I learned everything and yet I learned nothing. As if the past three years just made me more of my true self.

herman hesse quote

“O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was also beautiful. One knew nothing. One lived and ran about the earth and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic: a star in the evening, a blue harebell, a reed-green pond, the eye of a person or a cow. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise . . . and still one knew nothing perhaps, was still waiting and listening.”

—Hermann Hesse
Narcissus and Goldmund

Austin greatest hits: art

caitlin red spaceA couple of years ago I read about  “apartment galleries” opening around town. Basically, these are private apartments where the curators (the people who live there) offer whatever they have—an extra room, or even just a couple blank walls—to an artist each month to show their work. I contacted Caitlin McCollom, the founder and curator of Red Space Gallery (1203 W. 49th St.) and told her I wanted to volunteer. Since I am not a visual artist, we weren’t sure what I would do, but Caitlin generously offered that I could michael siebentake photos at the openings. I only did it a few times, but it was really fun and exciting to witness this sort of homegrown art scene coming to life. I made it to shows at SOFA Gallery (1319 Rosewood) and even bought my first piece of art at Tiny Park Gallery, a drawing by skateboard-artist-hero Michael Sieben.

I know many talented artists here—photographers and painters, multimedia and performance artists, letterpress and graphic designers—I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. I can’t list them all here, so instead I will tell you about my three favorite big shows.

El Anatsui // Blanton Museum

el anatsuiThis blog post does a really nice job of showing El Anatsui’s work. He (and his army of apprentices) turns things that we think of as trash into astoundingly beautiful metal tapestries. It is the scale of these works that really blows you away—they look like sparkly blankets that could cover the whole world. He uses liquor bottle caps, signifying the alcoholism that plagues the people of his home country of Ghana, and at the same time, the phenomenal, almost other worldly beauty that is possible when discarded things (and discarded people) are seen from a new perspective.

Nick Cave // AMOA-Arthouse

nick-caveWe happened upon this show while walking downtown on a day off. This is not Nick Cave the musician. This Nick Cave is a sculptor and performance artist from Missouri who makes these unbelievable “sound suits” — wearable art that are sometimes part of performances and flash mobs.

Norman Bel Geddes “I Have Seen the Future” // Harry Ransom Center

i have seen the future pinI am going to miss the Harry Ransom Center the most. For one thing, it is free. Even if they don’t have an exhibition that interests me, I would go just to look at the busts of famous writers lining the entryway, or to see what art they have displayed in the halls (they have a Frida Kahlo!). They have David Foster Wallace’s papers and Vivien Leigh’s dresses from Gone With the Wind!

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Bel Geddes design for Albany costume in King Lear

I went to the very last day of I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America at the HRC last week. Bel Geddes started out as a set designer for theater productions. His designs completely re-imagined productions that had been done for centuries, such as King Lear and The Divine Comedy. His designs were striking and HUGE in scale, conveying both fear and awe. The industrial aspects of his sets—the clean lines and sharp corners—reflect the skyscrapers and bridges, the massive concrete and metal structures of post-industrial America, while at the same time, conveying something primal and dark, the smallness of man against the overwhelming power of God.

Bel Geddes went on to design everything from clocks to airports, and entire cities to Macy’s parades. (And then his daughter, Barbara Bel Geddes became an actress who played Ellie Ewing on the show Dallas.) This blog post does a nice job of describing the exhibit. But the bottom line is: Get ye to the Harry Ransom Center!

Austin greatest hits: music

Lost in the Trees

Lost in the Trees

In 2011, I volunteered for SXSW. I was on the podcast team (which basically entailed me running around the Convention Center and pressing “stop” and “play” on a series of recording devices). My reward for volunteering was a platinum pass to the festival that got me in to just about any show I wanted to see. I found myself with access to all these shows and no one to go with.

Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq

So, I forced myself to go alone, and I found out that I actually enjoyed it. With no one else to demand my attention, it was just me and the music; I could dance my ass off and no one even noticed. I have seen some truly amazing shows since then, sometimes with other people, but often alone.

Here are some of the ones that stand out:

Jonathan Richman // Hole in the Wall

It was wintertime, and it was pretty damn cold. I still lived in West Campus, so the Hole in the Wall was just a short walk from my apartment. I went to the show alone, unsure what to expect. It was in the back room, which felt cozy and was lit with dim red lights. It was just Jonathan Richman and a drummer on stage, and JR was like this sweet trickster guru, bathed in golden light and leading us all through his hilarious songs. I will never forget it.

Crooked Fingers // The Mohawk

The Mohawk is by far my favorite venue in town. I have seen so many great shows there—The Raveonettes, Jens Lekman, Father John Misty, Future Islands (with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat opening. Oh sweet lord, you should check them out if you like avant garde punk rock music!)—but my top show at the ‘Hawk was Crooked Fingers on the inside stage. I was right up front, and despite some lame girls who talked the ENTIRE time, it was phenomenal. I want to marry Eric Bachmann and Liz Durrett and have their babies.

Jeff Mangum // ACL Moody Theater

Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was a huge influence on me. When I heard that Jeff Mangum was playing shows again, I really wanted to go, but the tickets sold out super fast. My best friend Hari went to the show in L.A., and she described the entire audience singing along, nearly brought to tears. I was pretty bummed that I wouldn’t get to experience it myself. Then, the day before the show in Austin, Hari called and told me that she had gotten me on the list. I was absolutely floored. The guy at the ticket window asked me if I was on “Jeff Mangum’s list” and I got to say, “Why, yes. Yes, I am.” The show was everything I hoped it would be. I will always be grateful to Hari for that experience.

Donovan // SXSW 2012 // Palm Door

Compared to the previous year, my SXSW in 2012 had been a dud. I had barely been to any shows, and I was feeling over it. Then I went to a day party on the East side (by myself, of course.) I was planning to just stop by, but I ran into my friend Stephanya, who is a powerhouse music fan. She told me that Donovan (THE Donovan! From the 60s!) was playing nearby. We had no badges and very little money. It was a longshot, but we went and got in line anyway. Not only did we get in, but it was only $10. The crowd was so into it, and Donovan was glowing with excitement. At one point, Eric Burdon from The Animals came on stage too. Stephanya and I kept looking at each other, like, is this for REAL?

FunFunFunFest 2012 // Santigold // Run DMC

I went to FFFFest with some of my best friends here in Austin, Sarah and Amy. We rocked out all day to bands like Diamond Rings and Astronautalis, but when the sun went down, I found myself packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd of neon-clad teenagers, barely able to move. As Santigold took the stage, the energy was overwhelming. And THEN Run DMC came on and tore the place apart. I am one of the many, many white people waving their hands like fools when they put the light on the crowd.

Neal Morgan (Joanna Newsom // Bill Callahan)

If you have ever seen Joanna Newsom or Bill Callahan playing with a drummer, chances are pretty good that it was Neal Morgan. I have to admit that I first noticed him because he is SO FUCKING CUTE, but when I lightly cyberstalked him after a Bill Callahan show, I discovered that he makes his own music too. I ended up ordering a copy of his latest album, In the Yard, on vinyl. It was like nothing I had heard before—it is spoken word and drumming interspersed with ethereal harmonies. The more I listened to the album, the more I was just blown away by the courage and the honesty that it takes to make real art. When you see him play with Joanna Newsom or Bill C., he is so restrained and attentive, so calm and zen-like in his dedication to their songs. But his own music is raw, brave, beautiful, gutteral, wrenching. He is a true artist to me.

Borrisokane // The Parish

Finally, just a couple weeks ago, I ran across this local group doing a show for Free Week and I completely dig them. Check them out if you get the chance!

Random bonus tip

220px-The_Strokes_-_Ist_Tis_It_US_coverIf you ever find yourself at a house party with a bunch of Austinites late at night and you want to get a living room dance party going, put on The Strokes’ album Is This It.

You might be thinking, “What is this, 2001?” I am not sure what it is about The Strokes and Austinites, but I have danced more to this album than any other since moving here. And it has been magical.